Living Without

I forget that not everyone has seen what I have. Not everyone has experienced ALL the emotions I have. I just assume that because I saw it, so has everyone else.

Aparisa Village

I was at my favorite local coffee shop, trying to pretend I was a cool hipster – Ha! Who am I kidding! – when I started talking to the owner about the kids and moms in Uganda I get to work alongside.  She asked me about the school fees that I raised a few months ago. I was trying to explain the school system there and how not everyone gets to go. That if you can’t pay the $45 school fee, you can’t go. That if you don’t pass the exam to upper school (equivalent to 7th or 8th grade year), your schooling is done. Your education is over. That’s why vocational schools are important, to teach them a skill, I told her.

She asked, “So, do they want to go to school?”

In my mind I thought what a silly question. Do they want to go to school? But then I remember how some mornings I have to drag my kids out of bed to get them to school. Our kids have NO idea what opportunity they are given.

And in that moment, I felt the tears building. Fighting their way up to my eyes. All I could think about was the high school kids from Aparisa village (one of the two villages I advocate for) asking me if I was the one paying their school fees, and then shaking my hand in their native way that communicates love and gratitude.

A lump in my throat.

“Yes,” I whispered as I nodded. “They want to go.”  Oh, how they want to go! The tears were pooling. “I’m sorry,” apologizing for my emotional response.

She was kind and gracious as I tried desperately to collect myself.

Why do I react this way? Why am I so overcome with emotion and tears? It was the same response yesterday morning when I was taking the kids to school, listening to the morning radio program raising money to pay to dig wells and provide filters for people in Zambia. When I heard the voice of the Zambian man, it transported me back to the long walk to a new well that was put in in one of our villages.

A long walk.

A walk to life.

To clean water.

So simple.

To say we take clean water for granted is an understatement. We don’t ever have to worry about water making us sick (unless you catch your 4 year old licking the stagnant pond water).  But honestly, in our happy, comfortable lives, we rarely think twice about those that are without.

Without education.

Without clean water.

Without medicine.

Amoroto Stella

I hate it when my kids wake up sick in the middle of the night. And not for the reasons you’d think. Not because I’ll be tired in the morning or they won’t be able to go to school the next day. No, I don’t like them waking up because immediately my mind goes to all the children who call out for help in the night with no hope for help. No mommies to comfort them. No access to Motrin to bring a fever down. I think of the grandma whose hut I spend the night in and her 5 year old twin grandsons. If they wake up, she can’t run down to the 24-hour Walgreens.

It wrecks me to the core. I’ll be holding my sick baby and crying for all the other babies that are without.

Without mothers.

Mothers without ways to help their babies.

Having gone to Uganda twice in six months has destroyed me in ways I could never imagine. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to recover. Some days I just want to forget.  But other days, I’m afraid I will.

Because if I forget, then what? I go on living my comfortable, educated, clean-water-drinking life. But then I’ll be without…

Without purpose.

And that seems like the scariest place to be.

Amoroto Margaret

 

“Don’t live vicariously through people who are actually changing the world. Join them.”

–Dru Collie, Sole Hope

 

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If you’d like to get involved and help provide education, clean water, or meeting medical needs, please send me an email amber@beautyforashesuganda.org

 

Posted in Africa, aWEARness Project, My Life | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

I Don’t Want To Go Back To Africa

It all came spilling last night. The way I truly feel about returning to Uganda in a few weeks. And on my anniversary no less.

Hayden and I pulled out of the driveway on the way to the movie for our anniversary date and I quickly became pre-occupied with my phone. (because I’m a rock star wife like that.)

Him: Who are you texting?

Me: Brandi. (she’s the founder of Beauty for Ashes Uganda, the organization I went to Uganda with)

Him: Why?

Me: Because, hello?! She and I leave for Africa in 13 days and there is like 5,000 things to do!

Then came all his questions. Are you ready? Have you thought about this or that? What are you going to do when blah blah blah? Where are you staying?

All my emotions boiled up inside but masked themselves in anger and defensiveness. He could sense there was something wrong.

“Well, are you excited to go back,” he asked.

Simple enough.

And in my mind I felt like I should be saying Yes! I’m so excited to go back. I can’t wait. Because that was the right thing to say when you know how much this trip is costing. And not just monetarily but in sacrifice and balancing his work and the kids. But excited was far from what I was feeling.

“Excited? No. I’m not excited.”

And then the tears came. (always the tears…ugh.)

why i don't want to go back

“I’m scared. I’m so scared. I’m scared to leave my kids for 10 days and get on a plane and fly across to the other side of the world. I’m afraid something will happen to me. Or worse, to them while I’m gone and I won’t be there. I feel guilty leaving them for so long.

I’m overwhelmed with all that we need to accomplish before we leave. Preparations to make here at home and for the work we will do there.

But mostly, I’m just afraid to go back. I don’t want to see the pain of the mothers. I don’t want to hear the stories of suffering. It’s just too hard. It hurts too much.

When I went last time, I was totally blind. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t know what to expect, where we would sleep, what we would eat, what we would see, how I would feel.

But now I know. I know what I’m walking into. And it scares me.

I don’t want to go back. It’s too hard. But I know I’m supposed to.

When I was there, I loved it. I felt oddly at home. And the joy…there’s so much joy…and love…and hope. It’s just all messed up. It’s all mixed up together. It’s weirdest thing to be in a place and experience ALL the feelings. The pain and joy and despair and hope all at the same time. It’s hard. And it hurts. But I loved it too.”

Between the tears and the snot and all the big feelings… I think it’s safe to say Hayden was a little shocked. Or a lot. But…he said it made him happy to hear me express all of that.

And that’s probably because it’s the first time he’s heard any of it.

I know what you’re thinking. Don’t you married people communitcate ever. What kind of marriage is that? How do you not tell your husband all about your trip?

Well, it’s called a busy life, demanding job and oh yeah, four kids.

When I got back in mid-August, I hit the ground running. My flight landed the evening of my kids first day of school. (Yes, I missed my kids’ first day of school.) Hayden was on call the next night and then a few days later he left for a week for work.

I had four kids to love on and take care of and so I packaged up all my feelings into a nice little box and placed it on the shelf and went about my life. I didn’t dare open that box. I thought about it a few times, but didn’t touch it. I knew better.

Life was back to normal. Crazy chaos, yes, but normal to me. And that’s how I knew how to function. I didn’t dare add pain and sorrow and horror stories of rape and burning and stealing and hunger to my everyday life. There just wasn’t room.

So I kept it on that shelf, in its nice little box.

Until, yesterday.

But I’m thankful it’s out there. I’ve cried the cries. I’ve felt the feels. I’ve released the pain, making room for new experiences.

Now he knows. Now you know. Now I know.

I may have messed up altered how our anniversary date went, but it was worth it. But honestly, it wouldn’t have happened if Hayden hadn’t asked me if I was excited to go back. So really, it’s all his fault ;)

Happy Anniversary to us! And back to Africa I go…scared out of my mind but know it’s what I supposed to do.

Posted in Africa, Confessions, My Life, Unconventional Life | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Going Topless With Jen Hatmaker

The other night, I posted this picture on Instagram:

pants off

with this caption:

Let’s take a minute and talk about this picture, shall we? Okay.

First: Those pants in the middle of the floor? Mine. Because after 9pm pants are optional in this house. And it doesn’t matter where I am, they come off so I’m comfy. Even if that’s in the middle of the living room. And yes, I left them sitting there on the floor so I could run downstairs and watch TV (because we don’t have a DVR. Don’t ask.). No worries, I’m sure my awesome husband will pick them up. (No, for reals, he really will. And he’ll fold them or hang them up).

Second: Those school uniforms laid out nicely on the couch? My kids. My daughter set her’s and HER BROTHER’S out so they’ll be ready quickly in the morning. She did this. I didn’t ask her to.

Conclusion: My kids win. I come in a close second… who am I kidding? I come in last place. But I do win on the husband thing. He’s a keeper, pants and all.

Someone commented about how she loves my honesty. My reply was something about how shameless I really am.

And it got me thinking. I realized that sometimes, I really am. Shameless.

But here’s the thing…I’m not frivolously shameless. I’m shameless with purpose. There is a difference, you know. There is.

I like to think of it as my spiritual gift. Shamelessness. I’m sure you can find it somewhere in the scriptures, “Thou shall not be embarrassed that thou haven’t her crap together and thou shall be vulnerable and bear it all for the world to see.” Yes, I’m sure it’s in the Bible just. like. that.

And along with my shamelessness spiritual gift, there is something else. And I think it goes hand in hand. I’ve written about it before and you can read it here, but I hate clicking on those links so I’ll just sum it up for you. It’s about going topless. No, not like that.

Remember when you used to (or maybe still do) go skinny dipping with your girlfriends? You’re all standing there in the cold and everybody’s waiting for somebody to be the first to take their top off and jump in? It’s like that.

Exposing our flaws and struggles can sometimes feel like that. Nobody wants to go first.

Every fall for the last 3 years, I have gone to a women’s retreat outside of Asheville, SC at a Young Life camp called Windy Gap. You GUYS. This is my most favorite weekend of the year. You need to go next year. We can be bunk buddies…

triple bunk

You can sleep on top ;)

Anyway, this year, I wasn’t really looking forward to going. I wanted to see my friend I meet there every year, but I wasn’t stoked on the speaker. Maybe you’ve heard of her? Jen Hatmaker?

Now don’t get me wrong, I think she’s a great speaker/writer and she’s funny and all that. Heck, one of her books was part of the inspiration behind my aWEARness Project. But man, last year she seemed to be everywhere. Even on TV!

And now she was coming to my sacred weekend and because of her, it sold out in a few hours and now there’ll be crazy-lady-fans who have never been before just coming to see this Jen Hatmaker girl. Basically, y’ know, I felt like she was ruining my weekend. Cause this world apparently revolves around me. (Oh, Amber…maybe there’s still hope for you.) And so the whole everybodys-into-it-so-I-will-do-the-opposite thing? Yeah, that. That was my attitude going into the weekend. Mature, I know.

But…

I was pleasantly surprised (as this sort of thing usually goes). She was incredibly candid about her last year. Very vulnerable and honest. She talked about the busyness and how we need to feel known and loved and how we’re not alone. And all the pretending we do and masks we wear and how tired we are because of it. How she was tired because of it. She was speaking my language. Preaching to the choir and my heart was singing along…YES, finally!

(And then I took back all the un-nice thoughts I had about her ruining my weekend and apologized to her in my head and she forgave me and then we hugged it out…in my head.)

On the second day, at the end of her talk, she announced, “Okay, now we’re going to spend some time sharing out loud what’s going on in our lives. What we’re struggling with. How we are feeling. Because if one of us is feeling a certain way, then most likely 10 of us are feeling that way too. We’re not alone in this.”

And then she stopped talking.

And it was quiet.

400 women…totally still.

After a few awkward silent seconds, she’s all…”I can stand here all day ladies. I don’t mind the silence. I’ve done this before and I can wait it out.”

And I believed her. I knew she could. I knew she would.

I was sitting on the floor in the very front row watching her slowly walk the stage.

And I’m thinking for the love…would someone just start already? Someone just go first?

And then… my heart started beating fast and I felt the tears welling up in my eyes. Oh crap, it’s me. I’m going to do it…I’m going to say something… And before my head told my mouth to shut up, I blurted:

“I’m really lonely,” and then through my ugly cry, “and my marriage isn’t good right now.”

What?!

Why would I do that? Who says that? Out loud! In front of hundreds of people!

After the session was dismissed and I was unsuccessfully hiding my puffy face under my hoodie, a woman came up with tear-filled eyes and shared with me how her marriage isn’t doing well either, and that it hasn’t been for a long time.

We hugged. And I knew it was worth it.

It’s worth it every time you guys. Every single time.

Because that is the power of going shamelessly topless. Even if it’s in front of Jen Hatmaker.

And know that topless or not…you are NOT ALONE in this. We’re in it together.

ox,

Amber  (with pants off, but top on right now)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Confessions, Encouragement, My Life | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

A Whole Lot of Nothing

I should be in bed, but you know, daylight savings and all that helps me not feel so bad about being up at this hour. Wait, does that make sense?

Ok, so let’s just take a second and laugh about my last post…um, 3 weeks ago? When I said, I ain’t no quitter. Obviously, I totally jinxed myself. So it wasn’t my fault ;)

But I did try. I sat down at my computer a couple of times with the intention of “catching up” and posting multiple morning mop pictures, but sadly, I got sucked into the deep dark depths of the internets.

internet holeAlso, it actually takes time to write. Like uninterrupted time. No kids, no distractions (which is really hard for my ADD self), plus………. oh my word, like right now!  I just got up and walked around the living room and dug through my son’s Halloween candy and am now munching on a Mr. Goodbar.

Speaking of Halloween… never again. This was one of the most stressful Halloweens ever. I was unprepared and therefore my kids were unprepared, which made for a grumpy mom on Friday morning. I won’t go into detail about how I spent the morning driving from store to store to gather supplies for my daughter’s costume to then have her change her mind two more times before we left the house that night. I won’t. Because it will make me mad all over again.

Thankfully everyone was dressed up and ready to go and I FORGOT TO TAKE THEIR PICTURE! So 2014 will have nothing documented for the Halloween festivities. Mom fail to the max. I tried to get them to dress up today but sweet husband of mine already threw out part of my son’s (lame) ninja turtle costume. Because that’s what he does. He throws things away.

School papers on the floor? Throw away. Tons of little post-its (with important information written on them)? Throw away.  Preschool crafts? Throw away. But he also does laundry. So I’ll take the throwing-away-of-the-things for laundry. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Plus, he has to counteract my hoarding tendencies. I don’t blame him. Well, sometimes I do. Because those are all important things I must look at before they go in the trash. Oh wait, that’s the hoarder in me again. Never mind.

Well clearly this post is about a whole lot of nothing. Look, I just wasted 2 minutes of your precious time. Ha! Sucked you into the evil internets with me…bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha. At least we’re here together. And that’s all that matters. Togetherness. You and me. Forever, together. Okay, I’m done now.

Love you all and hope you use your time more wisely than I to do this week.

peace out,

Amber

Posted in My Life, Stuff & Nonsense | 2 Comments

I ain’t no quitter… at least not this week

I kind of can’t believe it. Do you realize that I have posted 7 times this week?

I’ll be honest… I’m a little impressed with myself. Okay, a lot impressed with myself.

I once had to fill out a get-to-know you form for something (clearly, it was really important), and it had that what-3-words-would-you-use-to-describe-yourself junk. So, I asked my oldest daughter to answer for me.

She said, “You’re funny, creative, and I don’t know the word for it, but you come up with really great ideas but never actually do them.” Awesome. I told her we call that a, um, a dreamer… yeah, a dreamer, right?

So you can see why this is quite a big deal. I have actually followed through with posting every day. The only other things I haven’t quit on is my marriage and my kids…well, at least most days. Now I don’t want to get ahead of myself because there are still 24 days left. Oh boy.

But I’ll tell you what. I forgot how it feels to write. How therapeutic it is. How this little blog can create connection, something I’ve been missing for a long time. Yes, it scares me every time I hit publish on a post, but it’s so worth it. I hope I don’t forget that. Thanks for hanging out with me here.

And here’s to 24 more days of this!

#mymorningmop

#mymorningmop

Peace out my friends…

Amber

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